There was a time when the most elaborate meal prepping I partook in was swinging by the mini mart on my way to class and picking up a handful of marked down—i.e expired—Clif Bars to get me through the day. Not surprisingly, this strategy was ineffective. I found myself always feeling hungry and emotionally unsteady—any unforeseen stressor had the potential to unhinge me. And because I felt so restricted during the weekdays, I would often binge eat the moment I arrived home in the evening and throughout the weekend.
Today, thankfully, this has changed. About 4 years ago, I began by incorporating one nutrient-dense meal into my daily diet. This nutrient-dense meal, more often than not, took on the form of a loaded, all-the-colors-of-the-rainbow salad. This salad has since become a daily anchor of my diet and meal prepping no longer involves a mini mart run, but instead consists of a lot of slicing, dicing, roasting and tossing. The effort required to prep my salads seems to be a fair trade off for the vitality and mood stability among other benefits that I have noticed since making this change. Here are a few of the benefits that motivate me to continue eating a salad a day.
View this post on Instagram
This salad is life🙌🏽 Side-note: it was so windy that I lost 2 pieces of seaweed in the process of taking this photo.. In the bowl: 🔹1 head romaine lettuce 🔹beet and red cabbage kraut 🔹1 carrot, shredded 🔹1 small cucumber, peeled and sliced 🔹Kalamata olives 🔹1 package teriyaki seaweed 🔹garbanzo beans 🔹topped with lemon juice, olive oil, pink Himalayan salt and black pepper #lunch #salad #eatyourveggies
Long lasting fullness
To be clear, my salads are not dainty fare. I PACK these salads to the brim with a plethora of roasted veggies like sweet potato, baked chickpeas, sauerkraut, an assortment of chopped, raw veggies, kalamata olives, a nice green base—I like a combo of romaine for the crunch factor and a deep, leafy green like kale, massaged with olive oil, for the nutrients—and a healthy fat-centric dressing (this tahini dressing is my favorite). Consequently, after downing one of these bad boys, I am full for at least a few hours, often longer. The combination of fiber, healthy fat and protein are immensely satiating. The same way that these nutrients help stabilize my blood sugar, they also keep me fuller for longer. I have found that when my body receives the nutrients that it needs, it responds with a comfortable satiety.
Another welcome side effect of eating a massive salad a day has come in the form of digestive—ahem—regularity and the reduction of bloating that accompanies this. When I’m consuming a surplus of cruciferous vegetables and fermented foods—like the sauerkraut I top my salads with—on a consistent basis, everything seems to flow more smoothly. I speculate that a large part of this has to do with the fact that the good bacteria in our bodies—a large proportion of which happen to reside in the gastrointestinal tract—thrive on cruciferous vegetables and fermented foods. When these bacteria are consistently supplied with the fuel they need, they can work more efficiently on important tasks like breaking down food into absorbable nutrients and elimination becomes a more regular thing. In my life this has meant that I don’t feel weighed down by a bloated belly that’s working overtime to digest the food I put into it.
Mood stability and lasting energy
Quick rises and falls in blood sugar can leave anyone feeling physically and emotionally exhausted. The ability to keep calm and carry on in stressful situations is easier on a belly full of slow-burning, antioxidant rich food. When I was running on Clif Bars, I found it hard to keep up with the demands of the day and could collapse into a stress cry at the whim of any unprecedented stressor. By contrary, when I eat a salad loaded with fiber and a good balance of healthy fat, protein and complex carbs, I feel set for the day and in a good position to handle whatever physical and emotional stressors may come my way.
Healthier relationship with food
A notable difference that I have noticed since making this change is that I have a much healthier relationship with food. Having been someone who has long teetered between the extremes of binge eating and restriction, I am happy to say that I am no longer a slave to this vicious cycle. Eating a salad a day, among many other positive changes that I have made, has helped me to change the way in which I view food. Food for me is no longer a matter of calories in versus calories out, “good” versus “bad.” Instead, food is a source of fuel and nourishment that can heal my body and supply me with the energy that I require to show up each day as a slightly better version of myself. Additionally, anchoring my day with at least one large, nutrient-dense meal allows me to walk away feeling as though I’ve had a feast and thus quells the urge to binge, because my body is receiving the nutrients that it needs and I don’t feel deprived.
Not getting obsessed with 1-salad-a-day rule
That being said, it’s also important to include an and to the primary point of this article. Yes, I aim to eat a salad a day, because it makes me feel amazing and some days I just do not feel like having a salad. So, I honor that and have something else that I do feel like having. It is not about having a salad every day, per se, but rather taking the time to feed myself well for at least one meal a day. Having this one meal is simple enough for me to commit to, yet it has also proven to be an effective way for me to nourish my body and heal my relationship with food.
Get more like this—Sign up for our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!
Photo: Amanda Brown